Friday, August 20, 2010

He can't do third person narrators...

He, me, you. If I could choose one perspectival style and just stick with it, I would go with the first person narrator. Hands down. I'm starting to think even short bursts of second person would suit me better too. I haven't written a third person narrative in quite a while, and I guess that's because I feel like I can do more with the other two, like maybe third person's already been done to death and there's only so much I can do with it.

There are a few particular elements of writing that I find myself drawn to, particular styles I like to play around with. One of them's the blurring of poetry and prose. I like my poems to convey a clear narrative, and I like my prose to carry strong metaphoric tones. I feel like I can extract more meaning out of them that way.

Another would be grammar and sentence structure. I guess phrasing sentences to sound more natural in terms of 'speech', rather than textbook 101 English. That sort of ties back to making prose sound more poetic and poetry sound more prosaic. I think there's something inherently wonderful in the way we naturally piece sentences together, and I really enjoy trying to tap into that natural voice, to play around with the way sentences are phrased until they feel like they're weighted just right.

And then there's the narrator as a character, the narratorial voice. We live in an age where complete objectivity is pretty much obsolete, we know that meaning is subjective; to the author, the author's context, to the reader and their context, meanings are never objective or neutral and are never fixed. I feel that if I attempt to write third person, I'm just trying to hide the subjectivity of my writing (which, in itself is a challenge not without its rewards), whereas I feel that I can say more with my writing by embracing the subjectivity of my writing and just running with it. I feel that I can write a genuine first person character much better than I can a third person. I'm hesitant to use the word 'realistic' because I think that restricts the characters to a world too similar to our own, where I prefer to focus on the strange, and heighten them to what I suppose you could call a hyper-reality. I like my fictive worlds to allow for a bit of a stretch of the imagination. And I think that placing my narrator, first person, into that world, is the best place to start in shaping the world, the characters, the events, through the tinted lens of this character, so that it's all built around a particular perspective, so that it's more focussed.

I've started playing around with second person narration a little lately, and while I don't think I'll write a second perspective novel any time soon, I think that it's capable of taking a narrative in a direction that isn't possible through first or third person. It's a bit of a risky perspective to go with, particularly because people tend not to like reading a book that tells them what they're doing or how they're feeling. As a result, it's most important to set the narrative up well enough to give time for the reader to sink into the narratorial style. I've figured there's two distinct ways it can be written. As active or passive, where active has you, the narrator making the decisions and acting upon your surroundings, whereas the passive internalises the narrator and places you in a world where your surroundings act upon you. I think it's easier for a reader to experience the latter, although, for larger works, I think it comes down to a seamless instance of cohesive interaction that will both naturalise the narrator and naturalise the world in which you exist.

I don't know, I guess I'll just keep playing around with language and narration until something feels right.

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